Afghanistan Is Not Iraq

Glenn Greenwald writes:

In order to prepare Americans for Obama's Afghanistan escalation speech tonight at West Point (at least he's not wearing a fighter pilot costume), White House officials have been dispatched to speak to the media (anonymously, of course) to preview all of the new and exciting aspects of the President's plan. [. . .] [A]nyone with a memory that extends back for more than a few weeks, all of this seems anything but new. In December, 2007, George Bush delivered a speech to the nation announcing his escalation in Iraq -- that one only 20,000 troops, compared to the 30,000-40,000 Obama has ordered for Afghanistan. [. . .] I'm not comparing the Iraq and Afghan escalations: only the rhetoric used to justify them.

(Emphasis supplied.) I think the end of the quote is the rub. Afghanistan is not Iraq. And indeed, that may make Bush's policy defensible and Obama's indefensible. I do not think so. I think the reverse. I understand Glenn's point - do not accept at face value the justifications presented by the government - any government. But let's evaluate the arguments on the merits. Tonight we'll all listen to President Obama and then we can argue the merits.

Speaking for me only

< Tuesday Morning Open Thread | Bill Clinton's Transformative Change Vs. Barack Obama's Incremental Change >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Yes (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:21:56 AM EST
    but in the end Obama is conceding that the surge in Iraq worked.

    I must request that you explain that to me (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:25:44 AM EST
    Well (none / 0) (#4)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:28:02 AM EST
    if the answer to a problem is to send in more troops then Obama is conceding that Bush did the right thing in Iraq.

    When we surged in Iraq (none / 0) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:32:53 AM EST
    our only military goal for that surge was to not lose control of Baghdad proper, and we didn't.

    yep (none / 0) (#8)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:36:39 AM EST
    but you're conceding it worked too it seems.

    That and 3 dollars (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:37:10 AM EST
    gets you a cup of coffee.

    Unless you plan to have US troops in numbers in Iraq forever, Iraq will descend into civil war.


    Yes (none / 0) (#15)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:41:34 AM EST
    but you can make the same case for Afghanistan can you not? Tell me one country that has succeed there?

    you can make the argument (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:46:07 AM EST
    But it is not an argument that convinces me.

    I think the you are forgetting a basic point - Afghanistan is not Iraq. the problem of Islamic extremism is centered in Af-Pak.

    will we be able to nation build in Afghanistan? Maybe, but that is, I hope, not the objective of the strategy. The objective of the strategy SHOULD be to neutralize Afghanistan/Pakistan as centers of organization of Islamic extremism.

    Of course, a solely military strategy will not work. There must be important diplomatic and other tools put to use.

    Indeed, I hope to hear from the President on his non-military strategy and objectives.


    Yes (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:49:24 AM EST
    but we will have to wait and see exactly what the strategy is. As Wes Clark has said unless there is an exit strategy attached to the surge it's pretty worthless in the end.

    Overall, we're probably going to have to wait and see what Obama actually does because we all know that he's not real keen on keeping his word.


    His lack of support concerns me (none / 0) (#45)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:16:44 AM EST
    Of course (none / 0) (#23)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:47:38 AM EST
    But the military works by the mission.  The whole picture is the Presidential view and mission.  When soldiers deploy though they recieve missions and the mission of the surge was to not lose control of Baghdad and nothing more so we won that battle but it would seem lost the war if Nirvana was ever attainable.  There is a large disconnect between what liberals hear when we send in more troops for certain reasons. Liberals tend to think somebody said that more troops equals Nirvana.  Liberals want nirvana to come from a surge or they see no value in doing it.  You will never gain such a thing in combat zones.  Obama's initial troop increase was because we were in danger of losing control of the Afghan capital so he has already had one surge for a specific mission that is part of the overall picture and has thusfar been successful.  This new surge though is because the Southern and Western regions feed the insurgency that destablizes the capital and we do not have enough troops to patrol these area or to safely hold outposts in these areas.

    I did not criticize the Surge tactic (none / 0) (#25)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:48:39 AM EST
    but the strategy that believed that a Surge would benefit a strategy doomed to long term failure.

    Certainly (none / 0) (#31)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:52:45 AM EST
    and we need to get our troops out as expediently as we can.

    It seems, then, that liberals (none / 0) (#29)
    by dk on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:51:17 AM EST
    are not the only ones hoping for Nirvana, then.  Unless the point for the "adults" is to have endless surges.  If one surge just creates another, why not just get out of the combat zone entirely?  

    One surge does not create another (none / 0) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:54:57 AM EST
    unless you are determined to see things in such an endlessly hopeless fashion.  Afghanistan will have to be a commitment to a longterm stabilization.  I'm fine if you don't want to do this.  You don't have to agree to doing this in order for me to be happy.  

    What I meant was (none / 0) (#56)
    by dk on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:45:52 AM EST
    that your attempt to discredit liberals by implying that they lack seriousness by wanting Nirvana (which was the point of your comment, it seemed) didn't make much sense to me given that the purpoted goal of the surges ("long term stabilization") seems no less a Nirvana.

    i did not discredit liberals (none / 0) (#66)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:27:03 AM EST
    i am a liberal and we are fundementally antiwar and we have a certain rhetoric that goes along with that.

    Well, I don't (none / 0) (#70)
    by dk on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:35:44 AM EST
    really see how this can be taken as anything else:

    There is a large disconnect between what liberals hear when we send in more troops for certain reasons. Liberals tend to think somebody said that more troops equals Nirvana.  Liberals want nirvana to come from a surge or they see no value in doing it.

    To talk of missions and to (5.00 / 1) (#79)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:07:45 PM EST
    understand tactics is to literally study war, and it entertains the possibility that war could be a solution to a problem. We have no desire to connect to such thought processes.  They revolt us, therefore we are disconnected and for the most part unable to understand the military specifics outside of the possibility of death and destruction.  It isn't a BAD thing, but it can be.

    But, you have your own (none / 0) (#80)
    by dk on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:12:45 PM EST
    Nirvana.  You called it "longterm stability."  That's the point I'm trying to get across.  Those who, in your mind, are not naive liberals who couldn't possibly understand tactics have their own Nirvana.  So, the criticism of liberals as being different than people who, in your mind, understand tactics and study war, are really no different in that respect.  

    Is it more naive to believe (5.00 / 1) (#81)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:36:51 PM EST
    That military actions have and will grant us all the safety and sanctuary we all reside in, or that they have never and will never provide such things?  I believe that both extremes are naive but prefer to error on the side with less likely bloodshed since neither camp provides nirvana.

    Who said never? (none / 0) (#82)
    by dk on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:39:08 PM EST
    Perhaps you didn't mean to say liberals, but instead meant to say pacifists.  

    So the instability of Afghanistan (none / 0) (#85)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:46:13 PM EST
    and its takeover by Islamic extremists had nothing to do a direct attack on Americans.

    Non sequitur. (none / 0) (#86)
    by dk on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:48:52 PM EST
    Really ;)? (none / 0) (#87)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:54:06 PM EST
    I do not follow that (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:36:20 AM EST
    The Iraq Surge delayed the inevitable civil war in Iraq at a high cost to the Us. Ironically, one of the high costs is the deterioration of the Afghanistan situation.

    Iraq was and is unsolvable by US policy.

    Afghanistan, I will argue, is not only solvable, it is critical to US security policy.

    In short, Afghanistan is not Iraq.


    Well (none / 0) (#11)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:39:04 AM EST
    but the situation has calmed has it not? The party did a poor job of making the case that you are making and the GOP is now crowing that the surge worked and Obama wants to do one in Aghanistan.

    The problem here is that you are making the case that the Iraq war was wrong not that the surge didnt work.


    I am not defending the Dem Party (none / 0) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:42:52 AM EST
    I am providing my views of the respective strategies.

    Heck, why not advocate for a new D-Day? After all, it worked.


    Some people think that you are :) (none / 0) (#37)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:01:53 AM EST
    I suppose we need to make the arguments about how this will work.  I'm told you have writings stashed someplace :)

    I never said that Iraq was Afghanistan dude (none / 0) (#24)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:48:09 AM EST
    You must have missed (none / 0) (#7)
    by CST on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:36:33 AM EST
    the title of this post.

    Afghanistan is not Iraq.  The two countries/situations are different so you are comparing apples and oranges.

    That being said, I personally think Bush eventually did do the right(ish) thing in Iraq.


    I do not (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:38:30 AM EST
    There is no long term gain in the Iraq Surge.

    As soon as we pull out, Iraq will descend into civil war.

    to me, it is comparable to LBJ's escalation in Vietnam. It has short term tactical success but was a failure strategically.


    The only other option we had (none / 0) (#28)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:51:09 AM EST
    was the helicopters on the roof thing :)  It could have been his choice, but it wasn't :)  He had no good choices, and he put himself in that position.  The only way I could have gone for the second choice is if we pulled out everyone who aided us with us or else they were going to be slaughtered.  I'm just not up for good slaughter.

    Imagery is interesting (none / 0) (#32)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:53:09 AM EST
    but not to the point.

    How about declaring victory and getting out?

    In good order?


    Can you declare victory (none / 0) (#36)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:58:00 AM EST
    when as you are leaving the existing government structures are being attacked and mass executions of all inside are taking place?  We needed to leave immediately after finding Saddam and turning him over in order to do that and we didn't because Bush and Cheney had other plans for the region :)

    I don't think it will. (none / 0) (#52)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:35:43 AM EST
    have a civil war that is.   The respective groups will probably get along to go along.

    We'll see (none / 0) (#57)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:45:55 AM EST
    They seem to be exhausted to me. (none / 0) (#60)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:50:37 AM EST
     Sure bombs will go off but the worst of the pogroms by Sunnis and Shia happened in 2004-2005.

    Yes (none / 0) (#14)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:40:47 AM EST
    I understood the post however you are ignoring the fact that Obama is now saying that surge in Afghanistan is okay while one in Iraq wasn't. You are aruging Iraq vs. Afghanistan not about surges.

    well (none / 0) (#27)
    by CST on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:51:00 AM EST
    he has always made that case that afghanistan was the right war and iraq the wrong one - which was also distracting us from afghanistan, so i don't see how this is inconsistent.

    I also think he was wrong about the surge in Iraq.  Although I do think one problem with the surge in Iraq is that we do have to take our troops out for Afghanistan so it could have been all for naught if BTD is right.  Ultimately I think we will be in Afghanistan a lot longer.


    Well (none / 0) (#33)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:54:39 AM EST
    we're probably going to be in Afghanistan and Iraq for quite a while. There's no plans to leave Iraq and Obama was obviously lying about getting us out of Iraq.

    I think that's incorrect (5.00 / 2) (#35)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:56:28 AM EST
    Indeed, the escalation in Afghanistan makes leavign Iraq unavoidable.

    Not enough troops.


    I'll (none / 0) (#39)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:03:45 AM EST
    believe that when I see it. Obama promised to be out in 16 months but that was obviously a lie. I don't think he'll leave because it will devolve into a civil war and he doesn't want to be "held responosible" I'm sure. I see him pretty much continuing Bush's middling policy with a surge here and a surge there wherever there's a hot spot.

    You can't (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by CST on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:19:03 AM EST
    create troops out of thin air, and he's not going to implement a draft.  Whether or not we are completely out in 16 months is one thing - although I believe the Iraqi gov't has a say in that as well.  But we certainly can't continue there at surge levels.

    Troop Enrollment Has Gone Up (5.00 / 1) (#64)
    by Dan the Man on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:12:09 AM EST
    At the end of the day (none / 0) (#65)
    by CST on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:22:26 AM EST
    we signed an agreement with the Iraqi gov't to have all our troops out of there in 2011.  

    Although point taken, a bad economy is not thin air.


    I never (none / 0) (#83)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:45:10 PM EST
    said that we'd keep surge levels just that we'll still be there in 2012. This is a repeat of Nixon Vietnam---keep moving the troops around and draw down some but bascially keep it all going at the same time.

    Huh? The timetable (none / 0) (#96)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 02:19:15 PM EST
    for withdrawal from Iraq has not been postponed.  We did withdraw from the cities as planned.  Many troops are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq this Spring.  

    And, BTD is right about having to withdraw from Iraq if we are going to increase our troops in Afghanistan.  We do not have enough troops to be in both places at the same time....


    We are going to have to start pulling (none / 0) (#103)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 04:31:54 PM EST
    them ALL out now if we're going to be out next year. It'll take months to get the troops out.

    Obama promised that all combat troops would be out of Iraq 16 months after he became president. Sixteen months is April 10 and we're no where near meeting that goal.


    An election year promise (5.00 / 0) (#106)
    by CST on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 04:53:21 PM EST
    is what it is - and he was hedging on that date long before the general election took place.  By then it had already become a floating target.

    That being said - we have an agreement with the Iraqi government to be out in 2011.

    If all you are interested in is scoring some political points by saying "Obama lied about 16 months early in the campaign" than fine.  But that has little to do with an actual discussion of what is the correct or current policy in Iraq.  Nothing you have said or shown indicates that we will be keeping our troops in Iraq indefinitely.  And there are plenty of reasons to think otherwise, despite the fact that the 16 month target probably won't be reached.


    i never (5.00 / 1) (#109)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 06:19:55 PM EST
    said that we're going to keep them there indefinitely just that Obama hasn't kept his promises so far so why should I believe what he's saying this time?

    16 months from the announcement (none / 0) (#105)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 04:45:59 PM EST
    of the policy, rather than his taking office--so that part of the schedule did slip a little.

    Everything else is on schedule.  Pulling our troops from the cities this past Summer was a big step--making it easier to withdraw entirely--that was how the Brits withdrew from southern Iraq....

    April 10--how is that 16 months in any event?  Even if you start counting from the day Obama took office, April 10, 2010 would not be 16 months....I think you are jumping the gun.

    I think it is hard to fault Obama on Iraq....Next year will see significant decreases in our troops in Iraq and we will be out by 2011....

    And, it is simply not possible to keep significant troops in Iraq and increase our troop levels in Afghanistan...


    We've (none / 0) (#110)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 06:25:38 PM EST
    had agreements with the Iraqi's before and they didnt pan out. Like I said, we'll have to wait and see if Obama keeps his word this time. His record isn't good on that account.

    And instead of April '10 I should have said May '10 which isn't going to happen either. There's going to be plenty of troops to stay in both places. My nephew's marine recruiter is saying that he's meeting his recruiting goals for the entire year in March and the rest is just gravy. The other nephew signed his papers with the army in June and didn't get put in until last month. I'm sure he's going to Afghanistan when he's done with traning. So this is very personal to me and Obama's flailing around hasn't given me much confidence that he really knows what he's doing.


    I'm loathe to admit it... (none / 0) (#53)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:40:05 AM EST
    ...but I think Iraq was a more manageable war.  At it's nadir it was awful but Afghanistan is Terra Incognito.  It's the stuff that was left over when godess made the world and she had to empty the dustpan someplace.  Iraq is a paradise by comparison. Huge rivers, oil, urban life...those are the places wars are actually

    My husband recently wrote home (5.00 / 1) (#73)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:46:47 AM EST
    that the mountains are breathtaking.  He finds beauty there along with the difficulty of the terrain.  We have much better intel though now than we ever had under Bush.  Intel is of greater worth and is collected with a grave seriousness now.  Will that improve our prospects?

    Kashmir is even better (none / 0) (#77)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:01:59 PM EST
    It's actually one of those best kept secret vacation destinations.

    Mountains are Stunning (none / 0) (#101)
    by dissenter on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 03:38:18 PM EST
    Intel is better but it won't improve our prospects. The Afghans don't trust us and they most certainly won't when Obama declares we are leaving in three years.

    Why would anyone tie their future to us? That is what our politicians fundamentally don't understand. We can't stay because most of the Afghans don't want us there. The Afghans (the minority that do like us) don't trust us either because they know we will leave them high and dry. We've done it before. They will make their money over the next three years and then flee the country as they have done so many times before.

    The Pakistanis will continue to support the insurgency in Afghanistan because they believe it stabilizes their country. They don't trust us either. The ISI is absolutely thrilled with the idea of the Taliban being on the Afghan side of the border. If Afghanistan remains a mess they see it as a win for them.

    The idea that the US Military and State Dept are going to jump all these hurdles in three years is beyond laughable. I haven't even discussed the lunacy of training the ANA and ANP in three years. Has anyone bothered to check the literacy rate in the country?  Only those that have never been to Afghanistan and worked with Afghans believe this pipe dream.

    And Militarytracy is right. Liberals don't get it but than again, neither do neocons.


    I injected myself and my mouth (none / 0) (#108)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 05:14:45 PM EST
    into a diary at Orange today entitled something to the tune of "I Have Obama's Back Tonight".  That is how we liberals think when it comes to such grave matters.  We can tear a CBO report to shreds and make an analysis of everything to include the sawdust but we cannot entertain the actual debate of war, bloodshed, chaos, and death. So many of us are all going to take a deep breath and get this fools back no matter what he pulls out of his a$$ tonight and are proud to write diaries about such brave feats.  And no, I don't think Obama is a fool, but with the way some liberals want to support his war choices he might as well be because it is too hard for us to take an actual inventory and debate the genius if it exists in what he will say tonight.

    ahem... (none / 0) (#55)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:43:11 AM EST
    ...utility as policy.  I don't want to come off like Max Boot but even if the Iraqis resent the hell out of the US that could be the core of a national identity.

    There's a video of Obama on Meet the Press (none / 0) (#58)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:48:13 AM EST
    where he comes right out and says he agreed with how bush was handling Iraq. This isn't a surprise.

    Teh overall mission... (none / 0) (#47)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:20:20 AM EST
    ...took a long time but the invasion has lead to a relatively friendly government in Iraq.

    So what's odd about today is that the Invasion and rehabilitation of Iraq was (although very bloody and expensive) a credit to US Armed Forces (if not perhaps the civilian leadership directing it througha series of lies and distortions).


    Yes, tonight we can argue the merits, if any. (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by KeysDan on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:41:51 AM EST
    But, it does seem a little odd that the American people will be the last to be told. The military has already been given its orders and governments around the world have informed. And, "be told" it is--and before, ala Bush,  a polite military audience.

    It's odd? (5.00 / 2) (#44)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:13:05 AM EST
    You think details of military strategy and tactics should be laid out to the American public before the military itself and other concerned governments should be told?  That strikes me as extremely odd.

    Yes, I do think it is odd. (none / 0) (#48)
    by KeysDan on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:20:36 AM EST
    I also believe I did not say that I expected military war maps and all.

    Where have you been? (none / 0) (#40)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:04:30 AM EST
    When it comes to military missions they always get their missions before you are told.  And you and I are hardly told everything because that reveals troop movement.  The enemy has internet too :)

    Yes, and they probably (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by KeysDan on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:11:54 AM EST
    subscribe to the NYTimes to learn where the troops are headed.  Guess all Americans should be given free subscriptions so they, too, can be up to speed.;)

    Well, the thing is that while Obama is (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:42:21 AM EST
    the C-in-C and his word is the final word for the troops, that's not exactly how it works - or shall I say "should" work - with respect to his relationship to the American people.  He does work for us actually - not the other way around.

    I think that the point of the comment to which you are responding speaks primarily to the general lack of debate allowed in the relationship between our public servants and the people on issues of war and the use of military force.  I don't need to see the travel manifests for a troop deployment.  What I think we need is a healthy debate about our presence in Afghanistan and as you said above a concensus on what the specific mission is for our military.

    Further, I believe that if we are to really address the radical extremists as BTD contends we must, that the miliary's potential impact on that ideological movement is limited at best.  I think we should be talking about nation building if our objective is to de-radcalize a religious movement.  Because those kinds of movements generally only grow in their strength when people are facing nothing but the barrel of a gun.  We should be talking about a couple of decades of investment in rebuilding Afghan society a la the Marshall Plan.


    Even the mission will be wishy washy (none / 0) (#92)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:37:05 PM EST
    in terms of what we are actually going to be doing.  I complained about all this among soldiers long ago and I was told why in the age of media I'm the last to know anything.  As for a debate about whether or not we should be in Afghanistan he has had that going on now for months and we weren't included, nobody is going to like hearing this but this guy Obama was very clear that he intended to finish the ignored Afghan war.

    I don't object to hearing that. (5.00 / 2) (#94)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:45:33 PM EST
    I am not even sure where I stand on this situation on a certain level.  My awareness of Afghanistan goes back to the mid 80's when I knew an Afghan prince who was here in DC lobbying for assistance to fight the Soviets.  When it came out in those days after 9/11 that the OBL crowd was operating out of Afghanistan all those years later, my first thought was that we should have figured out a way to productively help them back when the USSR was their enemy - and before the educated classes were basically either exiled or murdered.

    Charlie Wilson's desire to help then was probably the right instinct - how it was done probably wasn't the correct strategy for our long-term interests.  That's why I do not believe that nation building should be discounted.  That's why I sort of think that it is the only thing that might have a remote chance of working - and I don't believe that propping up Karzai's government is a great idea at all.  That's all.

    So how do we define "finish" is really my issue here.


    Horrible loss in Afghanistan and Iraq (5.00 / 1) (#95)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:55:07 PM EST
    of both nations intellectual treasures.  And those who were murdered in Iraq, that blood is on our hands and heads.

    After decades and decades of (none / 0) (#97)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 02:24:51 PM EST
    wars and internal strife, the kinds of people who you tend to be left with are people who know nothing but war as not only a means of survival, but also as a means of economic advancement.  That's all most people know in that country now.

    Civil society has a hard time coming back quickly in that kind of environment.  The really sad thing is that Afghanistan was at one time a very forward-looking and stable country overall.  They've been thrown back into the stone age and it will take a lot more than military action - perhaps even avoiding military action imo - to start to bring the country and the people back into the 21st Century.


    Shoot, they slipped in 12,000 (none / 0) (#42)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:08:56 AM EST
    extra "support" troops while everyone in lefty blogosphere was writing all over the walls about how Obama wasn't going to "surge".  Tonight they are now announcing that they are immediately sending 9,000 Marines into the South and West but the Taliban has already noticed that it's starting to get a little bit hot in here.

    Is it unseasonally warm there this December? (5.00 / 2) (#50)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:23:26 AM EST
    just asking.  Surely this is a summer thing or perhaps Springtime.

    Yes. I feel all Nixon and May 1970 (none / 0) (#102)
    by Cream City on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 03:41:47 PM EST
    about this, having heard that what we will hear is what already was done.

    Is this the transparency yet?


    Afghan Camels Are Angry (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by melpol on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:08:04 AM EST
    The president has finally come to his senses. He is going to fortify the Kabul garrison. They will arrive in time to stop an Afghan uprising. Thousands of speedy camels ridden by angry tribesmen are preparing to attack. Most are armed with automatic weapons, the rest carry swords imported from Damascus. Their blades are capable of slicing off a mans head with a single blow. The camels and their riders are not easy to stop. They are injected with pain killers before the bugles sound the charge.

    All pro-war arguments... (5.00 / 3) (#59)
    by Dadler on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:49:11 AM EST
    ...related to Iraq and Afghanistan really fall back on a form of cultural supremacy.

    You can argue about troop levels, strategies, tactics, but it ultimately all comes down to "Those people can't solve their own problems, they cannot be trusted to, they are inferior, so we have to do it for them."

    We are right, everyone else is wrong.

    And it never changes.

    Such is the price of an empire in collapse.

    It's not just about solving their own problems (5.00 / 2) (#61)
    by CST on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:06:00 AM EST
    but solving the problems we created in invading their countries and dismantling the gov'ts that they had in place.  Also, with regards to Afghanistan, it's about solving OUR problem with national security.

    So that's what we're doing? (5.00 / 1) (#67)
    by Dadler on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:32:36 AM EST
    We're still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, against the wishes of the vast majority of the Iraqi and Afghan people, to correct the problems we created by going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    As for our national security being aided by what we're doing militarily, not a single Iraqi or Afghan flew a plane into the WTC. Saudi Arabia, our dear friends, is where the heart of the most violent strains of Islam get their juice. And we're happy to support at complete tyranny in that country because why? They keep the radicals in line (well, except the ones who carried out 9/11). We'll "leave" Iraq and Afghanistan when our empire ends, I fear. We psychotically act as if slaughtering innocents abroad time and time again could never translate into "what goes around comes around." And that this could never translate into decreased national security.

    We'd be better off simply treating Iraq and Afghanistan, and the entire world, with more generosity, humanity and respect than we ever have. We should be dropping in teams of "special" forces to build schools at lightning speed in these villages, and clinics, food and water, and deliver agricultural supplies, livestock, and this should be done on an overwhelming scale. We should be like quasi-superheroes of aid. We should at the least have, heaven forbid, something approaching a free American imagination.


    I don't really (5.00 / 1) (#76)
    by CST on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:58:30 AM EST
    disagree with most of this - but we can't turn back the clock unfortunately.  It is what it is, and this post pretty much explains why I didn't support the initial war in Iraq.  Although I do think you are underestimating the threat of an unstable Af-pak region to national security.  You can't drop in all that nice aid if there is no safe way to distribute it and there is no security.

    well yeah (none / 0) (#68)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:33:56 AM EST
    normally teh militarily superior nation has it's way with inferior  nations.   That's the way of the world.

    thank you... (none / 0) (#72)
    by Dadler on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:41:50 AM EST
    ...for illustrating my point about our ingrained mindset.

    That's Vom Kreig (none / 0) (#78)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:04:32 PM EST
    More or less ingrained since the Romantic period.

    The Crux of this issue (5.00 / 2) (#62)
    by gtesta on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:08:43 AM EST
    really is the fact that Obama will now validate the post-9/11 actions of the previous administration.  
    I had hoped that he would reject that view and begin a far more limited military role in Afghanistan modeled more on Clinton's Kosovo actions.
    I'm seeing a pattern here....Reagan was an inspirational figure...GWB was right...Clinton was part of the "failed policies of the past"....

    Dadler will testify to that. (5.00 / 1) (#69)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:35:21 AM EST
    Clinton had the most mild mannered foreign policy of all the presidents this side of ww2.

    I guess we will have to see what (5.00 / 3) (#63)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:09:30 AM EST
    he actually says in the speech, but if Obama intends to frame the Afghanistan strategy in the same terms by which Bush framed the Iraq strategy - and I fear that he will, if what the administration sources' talking points have been are any indication - I think it will show not just a failure of imagination - what are all those speechwriters for if we're just getting warmed-over, smartened-up Bush-speak? - but a perceived willingness to validate what Bush did in Iraq.  

    It simply won't matter that Iraq may be an orange and Afghanistan may be an apple if people hear the same rhetoric they heard from Bush, and objected to then; if he has to play the "but, Afghanistan is different" game, and cannot adequately explain the differences, I think he faces an even harder sell than he is anticipating - especially given what seems to be his belief that his speeches could sell hair remover to a bald man.

    Some may see this long period of reflection and consideration of strategy as indications that what he will propose will be the best strategy ever, but I think he made a huge mistake in timing that now has Afghanistan dovetailing with a huge partisan - and intra-party - battle over the cost of expanding access to health care; he is setting up to succeed with hawks on both sides of the aisle for whom no price tag for war is too much, and any price tag for health care is unacceptable, and to fail with millions of Americans who will rightly fear that after billions for banksters, and now billions more for more war, their own needs will be cast aside or diminished to near-irrelevance.

    I think what's happening now shows a remarkable political incompetence that will have real and serious consequences.

    i beg to differ: (5.00 / 2) (#71)
    by cpinva on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:39:11 AM EST
    Afghanistan is not Iraq.

    at this point, the only difference between them is geography. aside from that, they're both trainwrecks. both were countries, with functioning governments, that didn't attack us. both were invaded, on flimsy grounds, with insufficient manpower to complete the purported missions.

    neither conflict will ever be "won" by us, in the commonly accepted sense of the term, the best we can hope for is a decrease in the rates of attrition. the russians, brits and even the ottoman-turks figured out afghanistan is ungovernable, as a unified country. quite probably because historically it never really has been one.

    iraq at least had a modern infrastructure, and had been introduced to the (in a dictatorial kind of way) to civilization as the rest of the world knows it. since we managed to destroy most of that modern infrastructure, iraq is pretty much now where afghanistan's been all along.

    they are nearly interchangeable, in terms of our situation there, which is becoming more vietnamlike on a daily basis.

    someone needs to tell obama that LBJ isn't FDR.

    Yes, I fear that the Veterans Day Poppy (5.00 / 2) (#74)
    by KeysDan on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:51:58 AM EST
    will assume a new and tragic meaning, and for naught.

    One thing is the same (5.00 / 2) (#84)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:46:05 PM EST
    We aren't going to be told how it's going to be paid for:

    A top White House aide said President Barack Obama does not plan to delve into the specifics of paying for the war in Afghanistan during Tuesday night's speech unveiling U.S. strategy for the region.

    With reports circulating that Obama has already ordered at least another 30,000 troops to the country, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama will "certainly touch on the cost" of the war during his address to the nation, but he said he does not "expect [Obama] to get overly detailed."


    Gibbs said Obama would not likely discuss specific costs, but he did say that "rough math that we've used before is applicable."

    "For 10,000 troops, it's $10 billion," Gibbs said. "That's the rough estimate of what I think people have been using both here and at the Pentagon."

    It sure isn't... (5.00 / 1) (#107)
    by Edger on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 04:58:26 PM EST
    "Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism have reduced the pace of military transformation and have revealed our lack of preparation for defensive and stability operations. This Administration has overextended our military."

    -- Barack Obama, Speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (12 July 2004)

    Tonight he will try to tell people why he should send another 35,000 to Afghanistan, at a cost of $1,000,000 per soldier per year. If he does, the U.S. force there will exceed 100,000, and leave the country with virtually no reserve forces.

    Hear hear! (none / 0) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:25:14 AM EST
    I did not hear from my husband either for two days.  He just got through this morning and apologized for not being able to phone home but he says that he has been too busy to call.  I don't think he has been wiring fans into porta potties either with he free time like he did last time.

    I think this is more the (none / 0) (#12)
    by dk on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:40:04 AM EST
    rub of Greenwald's post:

    Still, this pretense that Obama spent months carefully deliberating in order to devise some new and exotic thought pattern about the war seems absurd on its face.

    Argue the merits of war in Afghanistan all you want (IMO, it's just one more example of American ignorance in the face of history and international affairs), but whatever Obama says tonight is nothing but theater.

    That's PR pixie dust (none / 0) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:41:56 AM EST
    I do not have a problem with spin.

    I DO insist the underlying strategy and tactics make sense.


    Well sure, but my (none / 0) (#20)
    by dk on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:45:34 AM EST
    point is that it's not like Obama is going to lay out the real underlying strategy and tactics.  He will lay out a story of strategy and tactics that he thinks will allow him to achieve whatever it is he thinks he can achieve.

    We'll see (none / 0) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:46:45 AM EST
    I have not heard the speech yet.

    We'll see if he admits (none / 0) (#30)
    by dk on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:52:41 AM EST
    he is not telling the truth?  It's not quite that easy.

    Broadly speaking he's outlining (none / 0) (#49)
    by Salo on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:21:32 AM EST
    at least one more summer offensive in Afghanistan.

    Obama is a rhetorician (none / 0) (#13)
    by The Last Whimzy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:40:39 AM EST
    it doesn't matter what he says, cause what he says won't have any relationship at all to what he does. same as bush.

    I've been listening to Wes Clark....


    i find it interesting first of all that raw story has the exact same misleading headline as michael moore.  ha ha!

    but of course clark isn't calling for removal of troops he's saying we need an exit plan prior to escalation.

    who thinks obama will have one?

    i'll also be looking out for some input from someone else who is booked to speak in athens, ga tonight.

    Are you (none / 0) (#19)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:42:57 AM EST
    in Athens?

    No (none / 0) (#51)
    by The Last Whimzy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:27:28 AM EST
    I'll be looking for comments or hopefully a transcript.

    Well, my guess is that we will (none / 0) (#38)
    by KeysDan on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 10:02:52 AM EST
    hear a lot about exit strategies (currently called finding the "off ramp"--if you want to get with the program)  Indeed, it is likely to be all about strategies with short shrift given to fundamentals.  Benchmarks (with vague enforcement mechanisms) are also in, and we will be hearing about those, although some may be sub rosa as with Iraq.  For example, it is reported in the NYT today that Exxon Mobil and Occidental Petroleum finally reached agreements with the Iraq Ministry of the Oil with more deals on the way. Maybe, that is a good thing in that we can now exit--and send those troops to Afghanistan as promised in the campaign.

    Not so much an exit plan (none / 0) (#99)
    by MKS on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 02:29:16 PM EST
    as a clear set of achievable goals....

    Re-making Afghanistan into a Western style democracy is a fool's erand.  Unfortunately, we may have to endure an Islamic style theocracy in many parts of the country--which would sadly mean ill for many women....

    Ending the dominance of the Taliban seems like an unreachable goal--given the cultural and religious preferences...which we could not stamp out even if we had 1 million troops....The Enlightenment did not happen in Europe overnight and there is no reason to expect it to happen suddenly in Afghanistan.

    Eliminating Al Qaeda--that we have to try and do....We must focus on achievable military goals, e.g., no functioning Al Qaeda military bases.


    WSWS on Obama and Afghanistan (none / 0) (#75)
    by Andreas on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 11:58:24 AM EST
    In escalating US violence in Afghanistan and threatening more direct military involvement in Pakistan, the administration is defying public opinion in the two countries, where popular opposition to US military operations is pervasive, and in the US itself, where opinion polls show that a majority of the American people is opposed to the war.

    In its contempt for the will of the people, as in its policies on the economy, war and democratic rights, the Obama administration is continuing without a hitch the basic policies and methods of the Bush administration, which were repudiated by the electorate when it voted for Obama on the basis of his claim to be the candidate of "change." ...

    The militarization of American political life is inseparably bound up with an imperialist policy, continued and intensified by Obama, of ceaseless colonial-style wars, aimed ultimately at bigger powers such as Russia and China.

    Obama issues order for escalation in Afghanistan
    1 December 2009, By Barry Grey

    Now (none / 0) (#88)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:00:21 PM EST
    "Senior Officials" are saying the way in Afghanistan will end in 3 years.

    President Obama is sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan but plans to conclude the war and withdraw most U.S. service members within three years, senior administration officials told CNN Tuesday.

    The president is ordering military officials to get the reinforcements to Afghanistan within six months, White House officials said.

    Obama will travel to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, later Tuesday to officially announce his plans. It would be his second escalation of U.S. forces in the war-torn Islamic country since he came to power in January.

    Because it's always a good idea to (5.00 / 3) (#90)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:24:41 PM EST
    end a war in an election year, I guess...

    Anne wasn't born yesterday :) (5.00 / 1) (#91)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:26:53 PM EST
    That's probably not... (5.00 / 1) (#98)
    by desertswine on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 02:27:46 PM EST
    the only thing that will come to an end in 3 yrs.

    Thank you (none / 0) (#93)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:40:26 PM EST
    I thought I was being overly critical and cynical when I thought that as I read that part.

    It was the first thing that came to (none / 0) (#100)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 03:24:27 PM EST
    mind; it was as obvious as the decision to delay health care "reform" until after the 2012 cycle.

    I hope we're reading Tom Ricks (none / 0) (#89)
    by oldpro on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:18:45 PM EST
    on this subject...and others.  His blog:  http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/

    I'd like to stay and play but I'm off to Habitat every Tuesday...including this one...

    The Sword Of Damascus Seeks Infidels (none / 0) (#104)
    by melpol on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 04:37:39 PM EST
    The sword of Damascus will soon have the blood of infidels on its blade. Politicians in Kabul will run for their helicopters and fly to Las Vegas when American forces are withdrawn. Karzai will be the first to leave. Those left behind will be forced to shovel camel dung to save their heads.